Birthday and happy news

I wasn’t really thinking about my birthday as it approached. I was more preoccupied with my 20 week ultrasound that we scheduled for the day before my birthday. I’m not quite 20 weeks but a blood test I took at 16 weeks revealed elevations in my alpha fetal protein, a marker for spinabifida. Our doctor tried to be reassuring and for our peace of mind we scheduled my 20 week ultrasound at 18 weeks. The day before my ultrasound I was so nervous I felt nauseated.

But we got GREAT news on Friday! There is no evidence of spinabifida! Our baby is growing well and looks healthy! The perinatologist told us that my first trimester bleeding and subchorionic hemorrhage that is still hanging out in my uterus, likely accounts for the elevated alpha fetal protein levels. And even though my clot is still there and still a concern, the further along I get in pregnancy, the less concerned the doctors get. The perinatologist predicts that my clot will no longer be visible on ultrasound by 28 weeks.

Chad and I were immensely relieved! We felt a huge burden lift from our shoulders. And it was such a joy to see our baby and see her thrive.

photo(28)

And yes, I am referring to our baby as a “she” because we found out we are having a girl!

photo(27)

photo(25)

I am most relieved that our baby looks healthy and this pregnancy continues to progress. I am also excited about having a girl. There is a part of me that is a little disappointed as I hope to have another boy one day. But more than anything, I am excited for a healthy baby and there is so much about having a girl that is relieving. With all the trauma of losing Charlie to SIDs and knowing that boys are 50% more likely to die of SIDs than girls, I am relieved to have a baby with lower risk of SIDs by virtue of her gender. Further, it’s nice to have another baby that will just be different. This baby will be born in summer, not winter, and it’s a girl. As a result I am less worried about all the trauma reminders I’d face if I had another baby boy born in winter. Like I said, I hope to have another boy one day. I think it’d be very healing to have another son; a son who lives. But for our next child, it feels perfect that it’s a little girl. And Hailee is absolutely thrilled to have a sister!

After our ultrasound, I was on the biggest high I’ve been on since…I can’t remember when. It feels so good to feel like things are going right!

As a result, I really enjoyed my birthday! I treated myself to a pedicure in the morning and that night Chad and I went out with some friends to my favorite restaurant where I gorged myself on sushi! (Don’t worry, it was all tempura sushi!).

photo(29)

Advertisements

Sunny days, sweeping the clouds away…

As Hailee watches Sesame Street in the background, I thought the theme was appropriate. This holiday weekend, Chad, Hailee and I took advantage of a free Monday and flew to visit my parents in Arizona. Sometimes the BEST therapy is going home, where the skies are blue and sunny and February temperatures are in the 70s instead of the 30s! It’s always wonderful to be around my parents who are very supportive and offer us stress-free company.  Spending the weekend in Phoenix, my heart lightened and the emotional clouds lifted as I spent ample time basking in this:

az sunsetI Love Vitamin D! There is something truly healing about sunshine.

IMG_2523

And Hailee is literally NEVER happier than when she gets to swim. She spent the majority of the weekend swimming in Grammy’s spa with her Dadda.

haileeswim

She impressed us with her ability to do somersaults underwater and dive to the bottom of the spa and retrieve pool rings. We call her our fish with good reason!

IMG_2522

I also enjoyed taking Hailee to what was a childhood tradition of mine: the Arizona Renaissance Festival. Hailee felt so pretty dressed up as a princess and I always love the awesome people watching opportunities the festival provides. And who wouldn’t love an excuse to shout “huzzah!” a few extra times during the day?

IMG_2502

Beyond these simple joys, I also got in great reading time and had a wonderful extended lunch with one of my oldest and best friends.

This weekend was just what the Dr ordered!

How could I not witness the scene below and feel, in my heart, that even though we have gone through so much since Charlie’s death 10 months ago, we still have so much! We have each other and many more sunsets to share in our lifetime.

chadhailee

Thanks mom for providing us this wonderful and much needed weekend!

Beautiful people do not just happen

This week, one of my clients disclosed to me that she knew about Charlie as she had seen our tree at the Festival of Trees. She handed me a card she had made for me shortly thereafter but had been holding onto until now. When she left, I opened it and inside she had beautifully written this quote.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” -Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

This brought tears to my eyes. Through my work as a therapist, I greatly value being able to travel with my clients on their personal journeys. That opportunity in turn affects me in powerful and positive ways. But it is rare that a client directly affects my own journey. This was an unexpected gift. One I will treasure for awhile!

IMG_0504

 

10 month angelversary and other thoughts

Today it has been 10 months since Charlie died. It’s a tender day and simultaneously feels so  much like any other day. I don’t have a service project to report this month because our house has been hit with the stomach flu and I’m also dedicating a lot of my energies to preparing for Charlie’s 1 year angelversary service project coming up in two months.

However, this last week I did deliver another quilt to a new angel mom. Or rather, I couldn’t reach the angel mom directly, so I sent her the quilt through her friend. I wish I could’ve talked with her and hugged her. Maybe someday I will.

IMG_0949

I can’t take credit for this beautiful, soft quilt. One of my dearest friends and roommate from college made her very first quilt to donate to this cause! (Thanks Mary!)

IMG_0954

As I mentioned in some previous blog entry, right now in my life I am surrounded by friends who have recently had babies, or who are having babies. What is…interesting (for lack of a better word) to experience, is that I now have a perception that babies die. I heard today that someone’s son was now 7 months old and I was surprised for a minute. Surprised that so much time had passed already, but perhaps more surprised that her son had made it to 7 months! I have friends who have babies who were born after Charlie and who are crawling, standing, eating soft, normal human food…and that’s weird for me. Maybe a better word than interesting or weird is hard.

I just recently became aware of this unanticipated battle in my head. On the one side, I believe babies die much more frequently than they do in reality. This view is positive in that it reminds me daily that Hailee is a total miracle and how grateful I feel we have a living child. I also hate viewing the world through this pessimistic lens. This view makes me terrified to have another. It makes me anticipate how and when I’ll lose the baby I’m pregnant with now. But this view also seems to make the loss of Charlie more alright. If it happens to lots of people, then the pain is somehow easier to bear. Or the experience is somehow more normal. But then I feel anxiety for other people’s babies, wanting them to always check on them and make sure they’re breathing. And I get those moments of surprise that their babies continue living. I feel confused about that.

That brings me to the other side of the battle. The reality that Charlie died of SIDS is rare. It is not normal for a four month old to die! The reality is, most babies do not become angels. Most babies go on to grow up and live! This side is more accurate and optimistic, but it makes the pain of losing Charlie more acute and personal. It brings back the very unwanted question, “Why did my son die?!” If it’s so rare, how did it happen to us? Why don’t I get to see my son learn to crawl, walk, and eat normal human food while everyone else around me does? I hate to admit it, but this side brings up intense jealousy. I don’t want other babies to die! I am just so jealous that all my friends get to raise their kids while my baby boy’s body is laying, alone, under feet of dirt, grass and snow.

See the dilemma? Living with the perception that babies die, while darkens my view of the world also eases my struggle a bit. But as I’m confronted regularly with evidence that babies live, I have to repeatedly sit again with my own horrible reality that my son is dead. And how alone and desperate that feels.

That is where I am at this moment as, 10 months after saying goodbye, I still yearn to hold my little Mister Mister and kiss his chubby cheeks just as much as I did when I last looked at him. I would give anything to know what Charlie would be like at 14 months old right now. I would give anything to know what his favorite foods are. Or whether he’s into anything in particular, like balls, or trucks, or even Hailee’s dolls. I would give anything to be paranoid of small choking hazards around the house or him falling down the stairs. I never get to worry about those normal mom things for him, because the worst already happened to us.

I hate writing posts like this. It’s cathartic for me to put my experience and feelings into words. But it’s also hard to acknowledge that it’s still so hard. And I am having deja vu writing this because it feels like I’ve been here before and said all this before? I also worry being this honest will worry family and friends and diminish the progress I have made in this journey. But for me, progress isn’t feeling better. Progress for me is to allow myself to experience this journey in its entirety (even where it repeats itself), continue carrying on, and have faith in the refining, transformative process of it all.

I miss you Mister Mister! Always.

IMG_3064

Darkness

Darkness waits for me. Patiently. Always waiting. It lets me live my life in moments. I genuinely laughed this week! I even felt good at times. One night I even felt better than good! The darkness lets me run from it for hours a time. But it’s never far. As soon as I’m not busy, as soon as I’m not distracted, the darkness is there and fills up the cavity of my body like a noxious gas. I can’t shake it. I feel helpless to it. And it’s also become familiar. It’s an unwanted companion I hope will someday disperse but right now it serves to remind me that my life is not right. That even though I’ve turned a corner in many ways, I’m still not OK yet. Far from it. I don’t even have to be thinking about Charlie or our loss for the darkness to pervade my existence. The darkness is like the presence that fills the absence Charlie left.

I wonder if others can see it in me? I’ve begun to think I’m pretty good at passing off as “normal.” But I can see it in Chad. I can see the weight on his soul. And how his smile doesn’t reach his eyes. I can see it in his fatigue. It’s like the light of life isn’t there. And while we’re both going through the motions and doing our very best to carry on and live, it’s a burdensome journey. Everyday.

Can people tell my light is still out? Do they see flickers of it coming back on? Am I kidding myself to believe I have moments of my light flickering back on? Have I gotten so good at acting I can even deceive myself? Or are those moments real? They feel real. But then the darkness comes on so fast it makes me doubt their validity. It makes me think I’m spending moments in a parallel reality, like a video game, and after each level, I come back to myself, to the reality where darkness waits.

Or maybe this is just the messiness of the journey. Maybe this epitomizes how slow and painful progress and healing are in the journey of grief?